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Keeping your act together

Not long after realizing I was finally getting a handle on this housekeeping business, we had the water fiasco. This threw such a wrench in the whole thing. It really put the process into perspective.

The water went out right before an ice storm, so we left and spent three nights with family in town (with water.) This meant that everything that was undone when we left was still undone when we returned, plus laundry. Oh, wait, no washing machine.
My happy routine that got the children taught, the food cooked, the house cleaned, and the laundry off my floors was not enough. Add to that the preparations for a road trip, which included emptying everything crammed into our mini-van onto our kitchen table (it seemed like a good idea at the time...right up until the moment family dropped in to visit and I realized what they were seeing in my chaotic disaster of a house,) and suddenly I was drowning.

Educating your children is more important than a clean house

I needed to time to stop so I could just catch up! But three days away from home meant we needed to catch up our school work. Our regular routine of schoolwork PLUS three days of schoolwork, plus mini-van disaster, plus laundry. I wanted to skip out on the school part and just focus on cleaning, but I've tried that game before and it just means getting more behind in school. I cried a little at the choice, but we continued the school work.

Friends and family are more important than a clean house

This was hard. When we love people, it can be easy to take them for granted.

My kids wanted me to "Come see this amazing thing we invented and drew 5000 pictures showing it off from every possible angle with design variations!" Parents to artists, you understand me, right? It is so easy to say, "I'll have to finish cleaning the house first, babe." It is so hard to muster enthusiasm when you just want to finish your task. They're worth it. It's five minutes. Do it. Okay, it's five minutes times at a rate of a gazillion, multiplied by the number of kids you have. Still do it.

People dropped in to visit and I struggled. I felt the familiar humiliation from anyone seeing us in the middle of our chaos. I also fought staring at the clock, thinking of the minutes I didn't have to spare...minutes that desperately needed to be spent teaching and cleaning and packing. I was more aware of the fact that there was a bra sitting on my piano than the fact that someone I loved was visiting. That wasn't cool of me. Family and friends are precious gifts. It's easy to think they'll always be there when we're finally caught up with life, but the two unavoidable truths are:

#1 Life will never really be caught up.
#2 There are no guarantees that family and friends will always be there.

Also, if your guests get the deer in headlights look every time you visit, you're going to scare them off from visiting. I love having company, so I have to get a handle on the house and my manners before they decide to never come back.

Family can help clean a house

Yes, you know it and I know it, but there just wasn't time to ask for help when they had so many things also on their plates. My husband was working overtime, my kids had lessons and meetings after school hours, and I just didn't want to give them any of the stress load I was feeling.

Last night, I went to visit a friend, recently home from the hospital. I confess, I resisted visiting because I was looking at my list of chores that was growing instead of shrinking and I just didn't see extra time to spare. But I went and I was glad I did. It was a blessing to me. I returned home, ready to tackle the mess and discovered a beautiful surprise.

My tired husband gathered my busy children and rode them like a taskmaster, all of them scurrying to scrub the house while I was gone. I cried and kissed my stove. I sat on the couch that had no laundry piles. I hugged that precious family.

The last two weeks showed me how quickly the chaos can pile up, but it was encouraging to know that we are all committed to not letting it take over ever again. We're still a mess and the house will never be anywhere near perfect, but it will be ours. I needed this lesson in balance. I'll likely need it again, but I'm hoping it sticks for a bit. 

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"Man lives by affirmation even more than by bread." - Victor Hugo